There's one thing you can be sure of in Massachusetts, you will get lost. Count on it. The roads are poorly marked, and in Boston and neighboring towns, poorly planned as well. Traffic merges in the most unusual way . . .it crisscrosses! One-way streets compound the problem even more. However, if you stay in downtown Boston most sites can be reached by foot or by public transportation. And Boston is a great place to visit! Contrary to its reputation, we found people friendly, humorous, and generous. If you love history, you can stay in downtown Boston two weeks and still not see all the historical places. Museums abound. Entertainment is everywhere. And there is a restaurant for every possible taste. In addition, the North Shore, Cape Cod and Western parts of the state each offer even more history, culture and scenery. No matter what time of year you come to Massachusetts, you'll find lots to do and lots to see.
MASSACHUSETTS TOURIST INFORMATION: (800) 447-6277
STATE HOUSE, Beacon Street, Boston (617) 727-3676
Open year round, Mon. - Fri., 9-5. Closed Holidays.
Sitting high on Beacon Hill above the Boston Common, the State Capitol appears towering, formidable. It's red brick facade, designed in 1798 by the famous architectect, Charles Bullfinch, remains essentially unchanged. Inside is a magnificent, cavernous public building with paintings, sculpture and sad relics that touch at the heart of history.
Tip: At all the previous State Houses we did self-guided tours and had a lot of fun. But the Massachusetts State House is so large, with quite a few areas off limits, you may wish to take a guided tour. Free guided tours are available from 10-5.
SALEM WITCH MUSEUM , Washington Square, Salem (978) 744-1692
Open daily year round 10-5 except New Years Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Summer Hours 10-7.
Which witch is guilty, which is innocent? Listen in to dramatic recreations of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. The scenes are scary, the voices are chilling.
Tip: The best time to go is Halloween. The town goes absolutely NUTS! People walk around in costumes all day and night and play pranks on friends and strangers alike. Kinda creepy. Kinda fun. And you're bound to meet a real, live, practicing witch.
Check it out . . . Salem has more to offer than just its witch museums (the town currently has three). There's the House of Seven Gables, the inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel. There's the Peabody Essex Museum, with one of the country's greatest collections of maritime art and history, as well as treasures from the Pacific Rim -- really a lovely museum. And the town is loaded with gorgeous historical homes and gardens.
JOHN F. KENNEDY BIRTHPLACE, 83 Beals Street, Brookline (617) 566-1689.
Tip: Go to the JFK museum (617) 929-4523 before coming to the JFK birthplace: by comparison, you'll be amazed at how simple his home life was as a boy. It's such an average neighborhood. Looking at the boys playing in the street today, I wondered if any would grow up to be president.
PLIMOTH PLANTATION, Plimoth Plantation Highway, Plymouth (508) 746-1622. Open daily 9-5, Apr.-Nov.
Tip: Since the pilgrims landed in November, we recommend coming to Plimoth around that time to get the full impact of what these newcomers went through. You can even have a realistic Thanksgiving dinner here. What a treat!
Check it out . . . Don't miss Plymouth Rock in town, a bit underwhelming, but you gotta see it. Also Plymouth Wax Museum (508) 746-6468 and Mayflower Society Museum (508) 746-2590 bring more color to the puritan era.
SANDWICH, Cape Cod
Tip: If you want a taste of the Cape without the commercialism, we recommend Sandwich. It's the oldest town on Cape Cod with a wonderful beach (Sandy Neck) and a lovely town center.
In the 19th century Sandwich had one of the nation's largest glass factories (Sandwich Glass Museum (508) 888-0251). It's also the home of the famous naturalist Thornton W. Burgess, author of "Peter Cottontail" and other children's classics (Thornton W. Burgess Museum (508) 888-6870). Walk the "Old Briar Patch Trail," a one-mile nature trail created in his memory.